Skip to comments.CNN on spending spree to rebuild channel (Throws In Towel On News Biz)
Posted on 11/08/2013 6:54:00 PM PST by My Favorite Headache
CNN is planning a substantial investment in new programming, with a heavy emphasis on acquiring unscripted shows by outside producers in the vein of Anthony Bourdains Parts Unknown and films like Blackfish.
The strategy, which is now being touted to analysts and investors, will hamper CNN's revenue but is meant to shore up its viewership in key demographics and reduce its dependence on coverage of big breaking news stories to attract viewers and advertisers.
As a start, Bourdain may be getting a CNN talk show on top of his Sunday evening "Parts Unknown" program.
A live special to be hosted by Bourdain this coming Sunday, following the season finale of Parts Unknown, is being treated internally at the news channel as a pilot. If the special, dubbed Last Bite, receives a warm reception from viewers and CNN executives, it could become a series of its own.
The special will air live from a former liquor store in Las Vegas at 10 p.m., and will see Bourdain and guests talking about issues like guns in America and food sustainability.
A Bourdain-hosted panel program is not the only new program in development. A source at a New York-based production company says that CNN is actively pursuing programs in a variety of unscripted formats, including other travel shows, and immersive nonfiction programs. CNN staff have also been very aggressive at worldwide film festivals, wooing filmmakers and acquiring rights to documentaries for its CNN Films banner.
There is a growing appetite for outside material, one CNN source says.
News of the acquired programming expansion is based on discussions with two people familiar with the plans, and backed up by comments made by Time Warner executives on the companys third quarter earnings call yesterday.
Those executives have been for the last few years touting CNNs record profits, but with the earnings release yesterday the message shifted decidedly from one about profit to one about investment.
We are investing at CNN, part of a strategic decision to broaden it beyond politics and breaking news, Time Warner C.E.O. Jeff Bewkes said on a call with investors. These programming investments will put pressure on its margins, but will bring new advertisers to CNN.
In fact Time Warner C.F.O. John Martinwho will take over Turner Broadcasting in Januarycautioned investors that as a result of the investments, CNN may not see income growth for years.
Financially, we don't break out network by network, but I will tell you directionally, CNNs operating income this year is down, and that is because of proactive decisions by [CNN president] Jeff Zucker and the new team there to try and invest in the programming in many, many dayparts, Martin said. Going forward, we will continue to evaluate what the right level of investment is for CNN. The expectation is going to be on a multi-year basis this thing is going to go back to growth.
While breaking news is still CNNs bread and butter, formats like Parts Unknown and Morgan Spurlocks Inside Man, as well as films like Blackfish, tend to be more reliably popular with young viewers. Cable news viewership skews old, but Bourdain often tops its cable news competition among viewers 18-49 and viewers 25-54, the two key sales demographics. Blackfish crushed all of the competition in those demos when it aired.
MSNBC is trying to lure younger viewers with programs hosted by Alec Baldwin and Ronan Farrow, while Fox News is using Megyn Kelly and a revamped Shepard Smith program to do the same thing.
For now, the investment in acquired programming bodes well for Zucker, who took over CNN earlier this year. The multi-year timeframe for revenue growth mentioned on the call suggests that Zucker will not be going anywhere for quite some time.
But the acquired programming also creates some uncertainty for CNN staff. Bourdain and Spurlocks programs are not actually produced by CNN, but rather by outside production companies. The more hours of CNN programming that these acquired programs fill, the less need there may be down the line for some in-house staff, a possibility not lost on employees there.
Maybe they could start playing music videos and replace MTV as they never play videos anymore.
Hell, I might even watch it for a few minutes.
CNN was a News Channel, Who would have guess that?
Maybe it should read “Pravda going out of business”...
“cautioned investors that as a result of the investments, CNN may not see income growth for years. “
so why waste our time then?
Maybe they could try to report the news without leftist bias and even hire a conservative talking head or two??
Nah, they don’t care that much.
I we ever get a la carte cable/sat, they’ll be among the first to disappear, along with sister net HLN.
More liberal pap in other words
Al Jazeera. Or however it’s spelled.
HLN might disappear soon anyways
I remember when CNN was still an upstart in the Reagan/Bush era. We kept it on at HQ because something breaking in the world affected us. It beat the others hands down until it went to the left. Then it became same old, same old.
Fox News is now going that same direction.
I remember when you couldn’t even get a cable service to carry FoxNews.
Take that CNN!
Yep. HLN even stated this week it is going to focus on more “entertainment” based programming. More dumbing down of America....just what we needed...less information about the real issues and more focus on the bullshit to numb the population into thinking everything is A-OK.
If they hired me to do a conservative show I’d get way better ratings than any of their current or new shows. And I’m not a trained a broadcast specialist like some one we all know.
Fox News wit the exception of Shep’s show is HORRIBLE with breaking news to this very day. CNN is ALWAYS #1 on breaking news.
cautioned investors that as a result of the investments, CNN may not see income growth for years.
Can probably drum up some Twitter and Facebook investors wanting to diversify from social media to social justice investments.
They could bounce back if they went further right than “course-corrected” Faux News. But their current leadership will prefer ideology over journalism . . .
I am not sure they could give us less info on real issues if they tried. They ignore so much that happens and focus on the trivial a lot. Always with a leftist bias.
If it didn’t fit the narrative, it didn’t get reported.
Of course they would choose a ultra liberal like this. He always made it a point to slip in some smart-alecky comment about Bush or republicans. He will never attract a large audience.
Think of the value of the brand name CNN. Dumping news instead of reporting from the middle. It’s like Microsoft giving up operating systems to concentrate on ebooks and mp3’s.